IDF says it downed Hezbollah drone that entered Israeli airspace

Incident comes after last week’s exchange of fire on the Lebanese border, the most significant since the 2006 war

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative: A drone flies in Berlin, Germany, on November 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Illustrative: A drone flies in Berlin, Germany, on November 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Israeli troops downed a drone belonging to the Hezbollah terror group on Wednesday after it entered Israeli airspace, the Israel Defense Forces said on Thursday.

The military said the drone — a small copter mode — was “monitored throughout the entire event.” An IDF spokesperson said the day-long delay in reporting the incident was necessary in order to study the device after it was brought down.

The spokesman said the device was not armed at the time, likely indicating it was performing a reconnaissance mission of some kind.

The incident came amid lingering tensions along the border, following an exchange of fire last week — the first of its kind since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Last Friday, the Hezbollah terror group launched 19 rockets toward Israel. In response, IDF artillery cannons fired three barrages at targets in southern Lebanon.

The attack came after Israel struck targets in south Lebanon the day before, in response to what the IDF said was rocket fire into Israel by Palestinian terror groups in the area.

Lebanese soldiers stand next to a truck carrying a multiple rocket launcher after confiscating it, in the southern village of Shouayya, on August 6, 2021 (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

On Saturday, the day after its attack, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said that his terror group did not seek escalation with Israel, but would respond to any Israeli airstrikes in southern Lebanon.

“We wanted to tell our Israeli enemy that any airstrike against Lebanon will absolutely be met with a response — but in an appropriate, proportional way,” he said.

For now, Nasrallah said, Hezbollah is confining its response to open military zones on Mount Dov, which Lebanese see as occupied territory. Israel captured the area from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.

But the Hezbollah chief added that if Israel continues to conduct airstrikes in Lebanon, Hezbollah may broaden its range of fire. He said that future Hezbollah retaliatory rockets could target “the Galilee or parts of the Lebanese Golan that Israel has occupied.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that the Lebanese government and its army “must take responsibility for what is happening in their backyard.”

“It is less important to us whether it is a Palestinian organization or rogue factions. The State of Israel will not accept firing into its territory,” Bennett said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on August 8, 2021. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

Until Friday’s barrage, Hezbollah had not taken responsibility for rocket fire toward Israel since the 2006 war. Israel had not publicly conducted airstrikes in Lebanon since 2014, although Israeli planes are said to frequently enter Lebanese airspace.

Lebanon has been undergoing a spiraling economic and political crisis in recent months, with some observers warning that the ever-fragile country could collapse entirely.

The Israeli army says that it hopes to contain the situation on the northern border without a major escalation. Military spokesperson Ran Kochav told reporters on Friday that Israel has “no intention of going to war, but we do not want to turn the Lebanon border into a line of confrontation.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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